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Five more ways to keep shoppers grilling

Of the 75 percent of American adults who own a grill or smoker, according to Virginia's Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association, the trade group for grill manufacturers, 61 percent of them will use their grill or smoker year-round. If you're tapering off the grill promotions after Labor Day, you're missing out on a significant and growing segment, says the association. Need more evidence?

  • Fully 28 percent of owners grill for the January Super Bowl
  • 14 percent cook at least part of Thanksgiving dinner on the barbecue
  • 9 percent will grill on New Year’s Day
  • 16 percent barbecue during the Easter holiday.
  • 43 percent cook outdoors at least once a month in the winter months.

How does the creative retailer help keep the grilling love alive when the winter winds begin to howl?

Push the produce. The grill association's #BarbecueProduce Twitter and Instagram campaigns can yield a wealth of merchandising ideas centered around getting more late-season produce over the coals. Think autumn naturals, like potatoes, onions, Brussels sprouts, eggplant, garlic, chilies, late corn, squashes and tomatillos, not to mention melons, apples and pears. Unique protein and produce combinations can surprise and delight fall shoppers. 

Cultivate the comfort. By a large majority — 71 percent — grill owners say the main reason to cook with grills and smokers is improved flavor. However, it's notable that 54 percent said they do it for personal enjoyment and 42 percent to entertain family and friends. The immediate intimacy of cooking that barbecuing brings makes it a natural for comfort foods. Soups and chili, stews and casseroles all work well on the grill during the early sunsets of late fall.

Cure cabin fever. Find your shoppers feeling a little cooped up by about December 1? Try a little outdoor festival merchandising. What better time of year to be standing by an open and warming flame, cooking your favorite summer beef or pork fare?

Diversify the fare. According the to the barbecue association, grill owners plan to purchase more specialized accessories in the year ahead, such as:

  • Pizza stones: 14 percent
  • Fish or broiling baskets: 14 percent
  • Cedar or other cooking planks: 14 percent
  • Motorized rotisseries: 12 percent
  • Grill woks: 11 percent

Give you any ideas for features?

Work the sauce. Fall's cooler weather opens up the chance to experiment with stronger, less traditional meats, which can hold their own well against stronger spice, sauce, rubs, liquors and flavored wood. It's a great time to encourage grilling champions, particularly young men who may be assuming more and more of the shopping role for households, to try some fun experimentation. Provide promotional ideas for creating their own signature sauces and spice combinations, and nature will take its course.

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